As part of a training exercise, Ohio County Sheriff's deputies and their K-9 officers took turns entering a running helicopter behind stores at The Highlands on Friday.
The helicopter was operated by members of the Army National Guard based in Wood County, W.Va. Ohio County Sheriff's Lt. Matt Moore said the goal of the training was to get the dogs, who are used for search and rescue and drug-finding missions, acclimated to being around and inside running helicopters.
Many motorists at the shopping center noticed the helicopter flying near the J.C. Penney store and at one point believed it was going to land atop the building. At the sight of the aircraft, some people stopped their vehicles to make sure it was not in trouble or performing an emergency landing.
Photos by Scott McCloskey/Ohio County Sheriff’s deputies and their K-9 officers train Friday morning with Wood County National Guard’s helicopters above The Highlands in Ohio County.
"This is the first time we've done it with dogs. We've worked with the National Guard and their helicopters before on search and rescues," Moore said. "They're just trying to acclimate the dogs to the helicopter in case there was ever an event where they would need to fly in a helicopter."
Moore said the sheriff's department has three police dogs.
"If we ever had to do it for real, it's not the first time they have ever been around it," he said. "We're just trying to see if they can do it."
A couple of the dogs and their handlers - Deputies Nicole Seifert and Kent Lewis - actually took a ride around the area in the helicopter. One dog appeared to have no problem jumping into the helicopter, while another was more tentative and needed help getting inside.
Staff Writer Scott McCloskey contributed to this report.